Sewing Tip: Sewing Curves

Here’s the post where I tell you about the *aha* moment I had a few years ago when I figured out how to sew around curves.  At one point I almost gave up and thought I better just stick to straight lines.  I mean, you can do SO much with straight lines (blankets, quilts, bags, curtains, cushions, and a bunch of other things from the early days of this blog).  But once I figured out how to sew nice curves, there was no going back.  I started off making cupcake pincushions, then putting curves at the top of my bags, adding curves to the bottom of bags, and making round seat cushions.  All this because of one little trick.  It helped me tremendously and I hope it helps some of you, too.

First off, let me show you how I used to sew.  While sewing a straight line, I always focussed my attention on where the fabric was in relation to the 1/2″ line  on the stitch plate.  My eyes always went to where the arrow is, making sure the fabric was feeding correctly.


Then, when I was sewing curves, my eyes went to the same spot.
This was bad.  Very, very bad.  Where the curve hits the line is the key.  In the picture below, the curve meets the line too far toward the front of the stitch plate.  The arrow below shows where the fabric should meet the line.

bad with presser foot

Below, the circle doesn’t even touch the line until farther back on the stitch plate.  This is how it’s supposed to be.  Nice, eh?

good with presser foot

And just for review, I’ve taken off the presser foot so we can all see clearly what is going on here.  This is BAD.

bad without presser foot

This is good!

good without presser foot

Just a simple little tip for sewing around those curves.

circle final

Now go sew something round and let me know how it goes!

Rulers, rulers, rulers! & tips for using them.

I have this thing with rulers.  I have LOTS of them.  How many?  This many:


I collected 8 for the picture, but I may have more hiding around here someplace.  There really is a reason to have more than one.  They come in so handy.  As I was cutting a large rectangle the other day, I took some pictures to show just how handy they can be:

Tip 1: Cutting off the raw edge.

ruler tip 1-a

Usually I start off by squaring up the raw edge.  This is my large 6×24 ruler.  The arrow indicates where I want to cut.  But it’s such a pain to lift up the little bit of fabric to make sure the ruler is straight, especially since the ruler shifts in the process.  Enter my little 1×6:

ruler tip 1-b

I can slide the little one up and down to ensure that my large ruler is in the right place before cutting.

Tip 2: The Blind Cut

ruler tip 2-a

I’ve measured to where I want to cut on the other side of the rectangle.  The arrow indicates where I want to cut and the fabric is much longer than my 24-inch long ruler.  This is where lifting the fabric and shifting the fabric can be a real pain.  There’s just too much fabric to lift.  Enter my 2nd 6×24 (B):

ruler tip 2-b

Now I have a way to make sure the first ruler is straight.  See?  Here’s another picture to show the right side of ruler B.

ruler tip 2-c

I can slide this ruler up and down to make sure that ruler A is lined up correctly before cutting.

Tip 3: Making Shortie Longer

For my final cut, Iwant to cut across the bottom, but my ruler is too short.

ruler tip 3 a

See?  It doesn’t quite make it.

ruler tip 3-b

Enter my nifty 6×6.

ruler tip 3-c


Now I can cut it perrrrfectly.

My favorite sizes are the 6×24 and the 4×14.  But really, I use them all quite often.  Does anyone have more quilting/sewing rulers than me?  I think not.  But if you do and you’re the commenter with the most, I will come up with a prize for you!

***Feel free to share about your ruler collection in the comments, but 2 winners with 20 – TWENTY!!!- each have me more than beat!  Send me your snailmail addresses, Charlene and Cory and I’ll get something out to you! ***

Ah, the Demise of Timtex – Updated

1/2009  Update:  Timtex is back and being manufactured and distributed by C&T Publishing, the distributors of Fast2Fuse.  My thoughts on all this another time!


In the wake of the demise of Timtex I’ve been doing a little stabilizer research.  I purchased a several online and played around with some from JoAnn’s and I’m posting my findings here.  The contestants:

1) Peltex 70.  Available at JoAnn’s for under $5/ yard.  It comes in 22″ width.  This is a nice product, but thinner and more flexible than Timtex.  When I use this in the bottom of a bag, I’ll often sew 2 layers together for the stability that I want.  Peltex 71 is fusible on 1 side and Peltex 72 is fusible on 2 sides.  They get thicker and pricier as you add a layer of glue.

2) Stiffy.  This is not a comparable substitute for Timtex.  It is very similar to Peltex 70.  It is so very cheap at less than $2/yard but you’ll have to pay shipping if you can’t find it locally which brought my order to about $4/yard.  It comes on a roll and is about 20″ wide.  One drawback is when I ironed it, my sewing room started to smell like a barnyard.  😦

3) Fruedenberg.  I’ve only seen this product at for $4.75/yard.  It is similar to Peltex 70, but has a stiffer, more papery feel.  It isn’t a good substitute for Timtex but I can see some great uses for it, like drafting my pattern pieces on it.  It comes on a 57″ roll so expect the package at your door to be VERY tall.

4) Fast2Fuse.  I purchased this online and it was VERY expensive – around $17/yard.  When it arrived I was really disappointed.  It came all folded up which suprised me because I can’t press it flat because it’s fusible.  I purchased 2 thicknesses –  regular and heavyweight – and quite honestly, I can barely tell the difference.  It’s hugely expensive for a stabilizer and is comparable to Peltex 70.

6) HTCW’s  FlexiFirm single-sided fusible available at  This is great stuff!  Thanks to Quenna and Marcea for telling me about it!  It’s 30″ wide and is lightly glued one 1 side.  It has some extra umph that Peltex doesn’t have and is affordable.

And the winner in the Timtex look and act alike contest?

Number 6: FLEXI FIRM!

This is a great stabilizer by itself, or if you need stronger support, double it up.  This is my final solution for the Car Organizer and I couldn’t be happier.  Well, I guess I could be happier if Timtex came back, but for now, I’m at least feeling very relieved!


I’ve only ever gathered one or two times in my sewing life and both occasions were miserable.  The instructions I used said to sew 2 basting lines and pull the threads.  So that’s what I did.  But my thread kept breaking … and breaking … and breaking… and driving me nuts!  For the chemisette handbag, I remembered a gathering technique I learned when I got my new sewing machine.  It’s much more fun and here’s what you do:

1)  Take your fabric and sew a zig-zag stitch along the edge to be gathered using a 1/4″ seam.  I set the length as long as it can go and keep the width at default.

 2)  Thread an embroidery needle (dull tip, large eye) with thick thread (I’m using crochet thread).  Using the needle, thread the yarn under the stitches…

…all the way to the end of where you want the gathering to stop.  In this example, I’m gathering across the length of the fabric.  Tie a knot in the thread at the beginning.

3) Pull the yarn, gathering the fabric to desired width.  Tie off at the end to keep the gathers from coming out. 

 4)  Distribute the gathers evenly,

then stitch across the gathers with a 1/4″ seam to keep them in place (not shown).  Remove the thick thread if you desire.  If you want to remove the thread, then be careful to not sew through it when stitching across the gathers.  Now this piece of fabric is ready to be sewn into your project!

NOTE:  If you have a couching foot, steps 1 and 2 can be done in one step.  Neat, huh?  There is a hole in the presser foot that the yarn can thread through.  Below is Bernina foot #6. 

You can play around with the stitch length and width to see what suits your project best.  I’ve found that keeping either the stitch width or stitch length small helps the gathers stay in place when trying to evenly distribute the fabric.  Also, it shouldn’t matter if you put the thread through on the right or wrong side of the fabric because it should all be within the seam allowance, and therefore won’t show up after the project is done.

Here’s a peak at an unfinished purse. 

Handpicked Hem, Hand-Picked Hem, Hand Picked Hem

I made myself another dress using McCall’s 8108.   It says it takes 1 hour of sewing time, but with my adaptations, extras and incredibly lower-than-average sewing speed,  it actually took me much, much longer.  I finished off all the edges with an overlock stitch, made the entire pattern a size smaller, added a closure on the neckline in the back and learned a few things along the way.  It was really nice to be able to finish a dress and wear it to church the next day.  Sewing clothes is becoming more and more fun! 


I learned how to sew darts and do a handpicked hem.  Traditionally, I think a handpicked hem is meant for lightweight fabrics, but it worked just fine on this heavyweight cotton dobby (more on this fabric another time).  I have an aversion to hemming things.  When I made myself curtains a few years ago, I left the bottom unhemmed for so long that my mom finished them up for me when she visited (thanks, Mom!).  But a handpicked hem is actually quite fun.  I think I could actually start to like hemming!

Hand-Picked Hem  (In the pictures below, I am using a swatch of fabric, not an actual skirt hem.)

First, you fold and press the raw edge toward the wrong side (1st fold). 


Then you fold it over again and press (2nd fold).


Next, (and here’s the counter-intuitive part, at least for me) fold the whole hem toward the RIGHT side (3rd fold), making the edges of this fold flush with the first fold and pin into place, but do not press with iron.


Now all machines are different, but on my machine (Bernina 440QE) you use the blind hem foot (#5) and use the blindstitch (#7).  Line up the edge with the midline guide and start stitching.  The blindstich is 4 straight stitches on the right of the guide where the needle is falling through the air, not catching any fabric, and forming a chain of thread along the edges,


followed by a zig zag stitch.  The zig zag catches the layers to the left of the guide and returns to right side for the 4 straitght stitches.  Using my blind hem foot, the zig zag stitch goes over a metal pin, allowing more thread per zig zag so that there isn’t any pull on the fabric when it is flattened. 


This is the result from the wrong side,


and the right side.


Pretty, isn’t it?  With closely matched thread, it would almost be invisible.

Sewing Tip: Squarely Boxing those Corners

Here’s another sewing tip that I had to learn the hard way.  Boxing corners looks easy enough on paper, but when it comes to actually making those corners square, eyeballing it hasn’t been good enough for me.  So for a tote bag that you’ve made by folding a rectangle in half and sewing up the sides, give that bag some depth by boxing the corners.  And prevent those corners from being wonky by measuring carefully.

First, snip the seam open at the top and lay the side seam down the center of the bag.  Press the seam open.  Next, make sure the seam is truly centered by laying a ruler on the seam.  Place a line on the ruler directly on top of the seam line, and as many inches down as you are supposed to box the corner.  In this case, it is 3 inches (which is a very deep box as far as bags go).

boxing corners1

Make sure that the fabric on the left side of the seam (A) is exactly the same as the fabric on the left side of the seam (B).  If A does not = B, then adjust the box and measure again.

boxing corners1b

Now draw a line across the bottom of the ruler and pin fabric into place.

boxing corners 2

This is the line you will sew on.  I always double stitch this line because I’m all about sturdiness and I also backstitch at the begining and the end.

boxed corner

This is a bag with an ~1 1/2″ box.

Happy corner boxing!

Sewing Tip: Installing a Magnetic Snap

When I was sewing up a diaper bag the other day, I realized how many things are involved in bag-making that I just had to discover myself along the way.  I also thought that if someone had just shown me a few things, it could have saved me some headache early on in my sewing life.   

I always hesitate to give sewing tips because I know there are so many of you out there who have been sewing much longer than I have and will probably laugh at the way I do things.  But, I’ll risk it and hope that I might give a tip or two that might help someone out.

So here goes, Tip #1:  Installing a Magnetic Snap:

I’m all about sturdiness.  I don’t want to make a bag, just to have the fabric around the magnetic snap fall apart and make the bag look bad.  Here’s how I do it.

1.  I never install a magnetic snap on just fabric alone.  Even if the fabric is heavy canvas, I always interface it – at least the small area where the snap is going to be installed. 

2.  I measure to the spot where the pattern tells me to place the snap.  I mark a dot on this spot.

magnet 1

3. Then, I take the washer from the magnetic snap and place the center hole on the dot. Then I make 2 marks in the slits on the sides of the washer. This is where the holes will need to be cut.

magnet 3

magnet 4

magnet 6

4. On my machine, I make 2 buttonholes around these lines and slit the holes open with the seam ripper.

magnet 7

5. Place the prongs through the holes.  Place the washer over the prongs.

magnet 9

6. Bend the the prongs toward the middle of the magnet using something firm, but not slippery.  (Hint: don’t use the handle of the rotary cutter – it’s just not safe!)

magnet done

7. Repeat with opposite side of magnetic snap.

8. Get snap-happy and start putting snaps on EVERYTHING:  purses, bags, drawing cases, patchfolios, etc. 

Cheap sourses for purchasing snaps:

1)  Ah Kwok Supplies.  It’s an Ebay store out of Hong Kong.  Even with shipping, when I buy 25  half-inch snaps, I end up paying about $1 per snap which is a better deal than I can get anywhere else.

2)  Joann’s has magnetic snaps in their notions section, but if you want a cheaper option, head on over to the craft side of the store where they sell bag making supplies (handles and kits).  They aren’t my favorite snap (they’re thick), but you can often get 3 snaps for under $3.

3) Etsy.  Several etsy shops carry magnetic snaps inexpensively now.  Search “magnetic snaps” under supplies.